Measuring progress



As noted by the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee in its recent report, it is not clear how the impact (as opposed to delivery) of the levelling up strategy will be assessed – particularly following the recent scrapping of the Industrial Strategy Council. As emphasised previously, at the core of a cross-government strategy to level up must be a more balanced view of the factors that shape people’s health and impact the prosperity of a local place. A broader set of metrics should be used to set targets and assess progress, including measures of health and wellbeing. These could include indicators of healthy life expectancy, mortality, morbidity and wellbeing across the life course that are already monitored by the ONS and PHE. A range of wider wellbeing and health indices and frameworks could also be drawn on. The new ONS Health Index for England, for example, tracks a broad spectrum of 58 indicators to measure the health of the nation and compare different places. These include healthy life expectancy and avoidable deaths; working conditions (including job-related training and low pay); children and young people’s education; access to green space, and access to housing.

Internationally, a number of other indices and frameworks have also been developed that could be drawn on. The World Bank has developed the Human Capital Index, the OECD uses a Framework for Measuring Well-Being and Progress, and the New Zealand Treasury uses a ‘Living Standards Framework’ based on the ‘four capitals’. The same sorts of indicators could be used to identify areas in greatest need of investment when allocating any future levelling up funding (such as via the UKSPF), to set clear targets for addressing health inequalities, and to better join the dots with existing funding streams.

These metrics should be distinct from progress against the operational delivery of a specific set of government initiatives, which may be prioritised by the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit or the new levelling up taskforce charged with overseeing the strategy.


There is a strong case for regular independent monitoring of these wider trends, outwith a government unit/department or central cross-government unit. To an extent, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) performs a function like this for financial capital, the Infrastructure Commission for infrastructure capital, and the independent Committee on Climate Change for some aspects of natural capital. An equivalent regular independent assessment of the nation’s health capital, scrutinised by parliament at regular intervals, would clearly be in the long-term interest – helping to sustain attention over time and build cross-party consensus and accountability on the need for action.

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